Sunday, November 30, 2008

The news is still big. It's the newspapers that got small.

Roger Ebert writes a must read column about the battle between thoughtful film critics and the cult of celebrity. Mr. Ebert has been through a lot the past couple years but in some ways his voice is stronger than ever.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Watchmen Will Suck


There's no other way to put it.

Having just watched the new trailer.

It's clear I've been kidding myself.

The director of 300 has taken one of the best superhero sagas ever put into book form and ruined it.

The slow motion shots, the characters calling themselves "Watchmen", the heroes posing like refugees from one of the BAD batman's all wrong.

Watchmen if you don't know was a graphic novel, actually originally a comic series. It was deranged genius Alan Moore trying to ask the question what would the world really be like with superheroes? We saw how they were compromised by the government, how they sunk into themselves, wallowing in their glory and sadism.

It was a harsh, multi-layered look at another world.

In the trailer, the heroes strut like magazine stars. Their latex outfits glisten. Rorschach the comic's relentless and somewhat psychotic detective now sounds like Dirty Harry with extra hubris.

In the comic you had an idea of what the world with superheros would feel like. Smell like. And some of it was...shabby, awkward even embarrassing. Nothing on earth can make a guy wearing underwear on the outside and Owl Ears look right. Watchmen's writer and artist knew this. Their Night Owl had a middle-aged paunch. He didn't look comfortable putting the cowl on...that was the point.

Instead director Zack Snyder seems to be reveling in it all.
I have a baaaaaaaaaad feeling this is not the masterpiece Comic fans have been waiting for.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Pony Tail Fights Back

How could Steven Seagal compete with the post-modern brilliance that is JCVD?
This is how.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dim Twilight

So as you can read here Twilight the movie is a historic first for female directors.

Director Catherine Hardwicke helped the teen fang film pull in over 70 million dollars last weekend. Yay for women right?

Not quite. As i mentioned on air. There are good things to Twilight. Kristen Stewart the actress who plays Bella with a simmering intensity is probably the best. But lets pull back for a moment and look at the role she plays.

Bella falls hard for Edward, the dreamy vampire with the messy hair. In the course of their courtship Edward tells Bella's he's been visiting her room while she's sleeping. Watching her in her room, for THREE MONTHS. Awww how sweet, your very own stalker.

Then (SPOILER) near the end, Bella basically throws her life away for her man. She leaves her father, lies to his face and heads out cross country. After the climatic battle Ed and her go to the prom and she again pledges herself to Edward, body and soul.

On the one level it's romantic. What young girl wouldn't like to dream of being so totally, completed enthralled with an all-consuming obsession with such a striking fellow. But given Bella comes across as a smart girl, I did find it disturbing how completely she gave herself to Edwards. That kinds of obsessive love, it that the message we want to see?

Some others have talked about Twilight being anti-female. I wouldn't go that far. But i'm not sure it's the type of role model I want young ladies aspiring to. The movie starts with Bella talking about sacrificing herself in the name of love. But should true love really come at that price? I'll stick with Hermione thanks.

Intimate Iron Man

Amazing, intimate and warm pictures of...Iron Man the movie. 

Best of all, shot by Mr.Stane himself, Jeff Bridges. (Link takes you to Jeff's personal website.)

Many of you are fans of the movie I'm sure.  This will solidify that feeling.   We here at G.O.F. have the DVD.  Movie stands up, even for the non-comic geeks out there.  

And speaking of all things comic and geek...I caught Ed Norton's Incredible Hulk.

Ewww boy. That is one bad film.  Hulk is actually one of my fav comic characters.  Hard to say why, maybe because he's so...basic.  Big Green Guy.  Monster Strong. Super Angry.  Plus there's all the great Jekyll and Hyde stuff.  Read some of the good Peter David comic runs if you don't believe me. 

Anyway.  To the incredibly-bad Hulk.  The final fight scene. Wow.  First, I've never seen a multi-million dollar movie like that where I thought the effects were WORSE than a video game.  You got a fine actor like Ed Norton, and then a CGI Hulk that looks like an insert in a Final Fantasy Game or something.  Yeech.  Plus, Hulk grimacing in pain?  Getting his ass handed to him by the Abomination?  Not quite green?  No no no.

(And it has to be said as a Torontonian. That does not look like New York City.  You can go and put up a sign that says Apollo Theatre.  It's still Toronto's Yonge St. and Dundas.  Probably one of the most recognizable intersections in Canada.)


Amazing fumble by the Marvel comic company there. I'm now convinced the only way to do Hulk is without CGI. Get a really BIG guy and make him look even bigger using smart camera tricks like they employed in the Lord of the Rings series.  It sounds retro I know but think about it. If they can make John Rhys-Davies appear Gimli-sized, certainly it's doable.  Plus, it gives Hulk what he's missing, the human touch.  CGI has come a long way, but for the moment we're still experts in recognizing true human emotions.  Seems to me a human actor, with the 2008 version of green-screen technology is the best of both worlds.   

 To sum up:  

  • Bridges - still a heck of a cool guy and evidently a great photographer.
  • Iron Man - solid movie, G.O.F. guaranteed. 
  • The Incredible Hulk - steaming pile of gamma-radiated refuse. 

Now That's Commitment

Next big review is the super-big, epic AUSTRALIA from Baz Luhrmann. You have to type it in capital letters because it's that audacious. I loved the flick, which would have been perfect if not for an equally audacious running length. (165 minutes.)

More on that soon. In the meantime I have to post the following.
I don't know how much you can trust the "trivia" links next to the imdb movie listings.
But if it's true....Nicole Kidman brings method acting to a whole new level.

Even though the filming schedule was pushed back a half year, Nicole Kidman never lost her faith in the project and instead prepared for the role, by by touring the country with her family, riding horses and even castrating bulls.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tweaking Twilight

I'll be reviewing the teen vampire movie Twilight today.
(Tune in to your favourite CBC morning or afternoon show on Cornerbrook. St.John's, Thunder Bay, Regina, Ontario Morning, Whitehorse, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Sudbury, Quebec City, Winnipeg or Windsor.)

In short, great concept, weak execution.

And one of the weak parts is the character Edward Cullen as played by Robert Pattinson. (Second from the right there.)

You might remember him as Cedric, the jock who gets killed in the Harry Potter films. I didn't get to mention it in my radio review, but Robert is one of the weak links that weighs down this film. It doesn't help that Kristen Stewart who plays Bella is great. While Robert is just, well sulky and lame.
I managed to take a gander at the first Twilight book. What stuck me is how the in the novel the Edward character has a sharper edge. He's not a nice guy. He's dangerous. Angry. A bit of a jerk. In the film Robert shrinks Edward's emotional range down to spooky and whiny. I can't help but think with a stronger actor, a younger Jude Law type... it could have been a better film.
Regardless like any big series Twilight book fans will flock to see how the novel translates to the big screen. Like many fantasy series (hello Narnia) this one stumbles coming out of the gate. But I guarantee there's more to come.
UPDATE: Hey Twilighters!
Check out this bit of blasphemy from Robert himself.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Geeks Are Giddy...

...because the new Star Trek trailer is online.

I'm more of an Star Wars fan than Trek. But I gotta say. It looks gooooooooooood.
I predict the problem will be the villain. Lots of fun doing a Star Trek reboot. But most of the villains are cheeseorama. Prove me wrong Abrams!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Spoiling Milk

So i saw MILK, the movie about gay activist Harvey Milk today.
It’s an amazing film, total Oscar bait, a powerful political story lead by Sean Penn who must be one of the finest actors in his generation.

I had some reservations about having a well known straight actor take on such a flamboyant role, but he goes at it with gusto. Like any good movie about politics Milk sucks you in, into Milk’s cause, into his world, his fight. It isn’t just a “gay story” but a universal fight for rights, a David vs Goliath situation told artfully by Gus Van Sant.

But again i noticed two cliches done right. First movie cliché is the narration.
Many a movie has been ruined by too much narration, holding the audience’s hand all along the way.

Here Milk starts with Harvey sitting a table in 1975 speaking into a cassette player.
He’s recording a tape to played in the event of his death. A nice screenwriters trick to help set up the story? Sure. But it's a plausible one because as Milk explains he's in a dangerous fight. Gay rights weren't taken for granted back then. Even in San Fransisco Milk was angering the establishment. The taped speech works as a linking device. It sets the stakes and gives Milk way to explain just what they were fighting for, while also reminding us he’s living on borrow time.

Speaking of borrowed time, the second cliché, done right, is the death scene.


We know from the opening frame Milk will be murdered. Near the end of the movie it becomes clear who will do it.

But the act, the final confrontation is done with about as much poetry and grace such a heinous act can handle. I wont go into specifics, but (again spoiler) after the shot we see a beautiful tableau.
A side profile of Harvey Milk. Frozen for a moment.
Then he falls, against a window looking outside the City Hall.
Across the street he sees the posters for the opera Tosca.
Milk a long time opera fan just took in his first performance.
With the reflection of the Tosca's tragic hero in his eyes, Milks takes his bow.

My description does damage to the moment on film, but it’s a beaut.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Depends on What Your Meaning of "Is" Is...

SYNECDOCHE [Sih-NECK-doh-kee] -A figure of speech in which:
A Part is used for the Whole - The Screen for Movies
A Whole stands for a Part - The Law for Police
A Species (specific kind) stands for its Genus (general kind) - Cutthroats for Assassins
A Genus stands in for its Species - Creature for Person
A Material stands for a Thing - Ivories for Piano Keys

So I saw Synecdoche.

To say the least Charlie Kaufman's new movie (which the writer also directed) is difficult to describe.

A hundred shades of melancholy.

A love letter buried under the author's psychosis.

A non-conventional narrative Godard would be proud of.

It's all these things and more. A difficult movie to describe and at times perhaps to figure out. It engages you. There is no spoon feeding.

Charlie Kaufman has filled his film with all his personal peccadilloes. Obsessing over sickness and death. Art and creation.

But at its heart. At its murky, twisted, dark, wry, blackly comic is about relationships. About long lost loves and chances recovered.

Try and imagine the bastard child of Charlie Brown + Kafka with a smidgen of Terry Gilliam. Yup Gilliam. Keep you eyes out for the crazy clowns loading refugees onto a bus.

I wont say much more, except when I first watched Synecdoche I left feeling Philip Seymour Hoffman was a hero. He plays the main character, Caden, a theatre director who creates a play that never ends, constantly examining and reexamining his own life (including the very play he's creating.)

So dazed by the recursive storyline I swooned for Caden. The tireless artist who never stops searching.

Now a couple days removed it doesn't seem so glorious. More like a tragedy. The dangers of terminal tunnel vision. An obsessive case of self obsession.

So, ah see it, will ya?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kevin Smith and the Look of Love

There is a moment in Zack and Miri Make a Porno that sums up the best and worst of director Kevin Smith. It comes as Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are doing what we knew they would do since the movie started.

Broke and desperate the two slackers decide to make a bare-budget porno to pull themselves out of debt. (Kevin's Smith's wry commentary on the financial crisis? No probably not.) So the time has come for Z&M to play their part and join the cast of bare-bottomed amateurs.

The setting is a Starbucks knockoff Zack works at during the day. Night comes and the pronto pornographers draw the curtains and get to work.

After an awkward bit of coffee shop foreplay ("Oh, would you like some of my creme?") Zack throws Miri down on a sack of coffee beans. Really. Then giving hope to pudgy but funny class clowns everywhere, Seth Rogen begins to bone Elizabeth Banks.

The camera zooms in, nothing spicy, it's all above the neck, and we watch as things go from silly to sublime in seconds. Shooting the two in golden hues borrowed from CSI Miami, it's obvious something cosmic is taking place. Smith whose never been accused of subtly further underscores the moment by laying down some post-grunge music (the band Live actually) the wash of guitars urging them along.

Can a moment be simultaneously touching and ridiculous? That, you might say is the charm of Kevin Smith. An oasis of romance in an ocean of ass and poo jokes.
Even during the sex scene, Smith can't help himself, cutting away from the moment to throw in a a couple jokes from onlooking crew. But this scene, this connection is what Kevin Smith is about. Beneath the brutal frat boy humour and scatter gun pop culture references, Smith is a big fat mushy romantic. Being a stocky bearded fellow himself, Smith has an affinity to the underdog. He knows the fragile ego of the modern manboy. If anyone can help continue Seth Rogen's charm offensive, it's Smith the screenwriter. And it doesn't hurt that his female characters are a step above the typical Van Wilder bimbettes.

As with most Smith movies, the relationships are better than the comedy. (The best so far being Chasing Amy.) At this point I'm tiring of Smith's brand of funny, like Tarantino with tourettes sans violence. What I'd really like to see him do is drop the crude act altogether and go with his heart. Come on Kevin. You could be the John Hughes our your generation. Reach for the glory. Gives us your Breakfast Club and save us the agony of Clerks 3.